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Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Fortune and misfortune of the Iraqi scientific community!

Why should the one having knowledge, keep it for his own? This is a Sumerian saying 5000 years old. Why? Shouldn't we say « it would be better not to disclose to others of what distress us » suggest an other Sumerian saying?

What is to be done when something which distress or sadden us, and at the same time gives us enjoyment? The echos reaching us from the Iraqi scientific community split our heart in two parts and for everyone his own part : “wisdom or madness” as Louis Aragon once said.

Early this month, an event happened, both fortunate and unfortunate. An official Iraqi statement, published in Bagdad, announced a meeting of the ministers of higher education, scientific research, oil, science and technology to discuss the integration of the “Iraqi academy of science”, a puppet construction built up in London in 2003 as a substitute of the genuine National Iraqi Academy of Science established in Baghdad in 1947. The statement specify the proposition made to the prime minister to include this puppet construction into the framework of the National Iraqi Academy of Science.

Should this decision mean that some Iraqi scientists did recover from their minds which have been lost under the occupation, by creating a construction designed to replace the Iraqi National Academy of Science?

At the moment of these facts I have written that this initiative urge laughing twice, as the anecdote of the deaf person laughing suggests “ the first time he laughs with the others and the second time when the anecdote is exposed ”. In our case, the first time is when the people decided to create this puppet organization in London, the capital of the country who flouted the international law in occupying Iraq, and at the second time, when the initiators of this hoax imagine the dismantling of the first Academy of Science in the Middle East, established, remember , in 1947. The day I did write this , the president of the London Academy, the actual Iraqi minister of oil, protested loudly. Today it would belong to the National Iraqi Academy of Science to laugh the last, as Victor Hugo said very well, when “the suffering having passed the limits of the bearable” men “wouldn't have been penetrated by indifference and transformed into true shadows of themselves”.

And why the scientific community should care about this decision when the number of its dead members has passed the four hundred and eighteen last week and seventy five members kidnapped and disappeared. The last victim is a female professor of law at the university of Mossul, and the media, as usual for the greater part of assassinated women, did not deign to retain her name.

A recent communiqué has announced the disappearing of Smail Khalil Takriti ,atomic scientist, who resided in Libya and returned to Iraq when the government offered him the presidency of the university of Takrit.

The Brussels Tribunal, an European organization located in Bruxelles and cooperating with the Alliance of Iraqi Academics in Baghdad, in coherent production of the situation of the dead and disappeared within the Iraqi scientific community posted a communiqué pointing out that “Takriti left his home in Jadria, near Baghdad, the area under the Badr de Abdel Aziz Al Hakim militia authority , and since four month there is no sign anymore of him”.

In such conditions , how can we not felicitate the organizers of the ceremony, which took place in Washington and not in Baghdad and chosen to honor a different number of Iraqi scientists , organized with the support of the cultural office of the Iraqi embassy and with the collaboration of the organization of “the female academics of American national sciences”.

The participation of “scientific founders” , the name given to the academics against the US occupation of Iraq, has been noticed , as Zeineb Al Bahrani, with tenure of the chair of History, Archeology and Higher education at the Columbia University and who started at the time a media campaign against the destruction of the Iraqi archeological sites by the occupation forces.

There was also the presence of her colleague Kaïs Al Awkati, with tenure of the chair of Physics at the same university, well known for his works about the stem cells used for the regeneration of organs and human tissue. Al Awkati accomplished his studies at the University of Baghdad and published many works about the harmful effects on the health of the Iraqi population, as a consequence of the harsh boycott against Iraq.

The larger part of the scientific community honored at this ceremony are senior physics from the faculty of Baghdad, as Salah Al Askari who withholds the world record of the number of operations of kidney implantation. His oldest woman patient with his first implantation, in 1967 is still in good physical condition after 41 years, and is a multiple mother and grandmother. This is one of the rare long lasting implantation.

Al Askari occupied a great number of academic positions in the USA. In 1997 he has been chosen president of the scientific counsel of the University of New York. At the same place he occupied the presidency of the commission for development within 30 years. Actually he is 82 years old and uses the language of the footballers to advise his Iraqi colleagues: “ working hard, aiming the highest point with the belief to be one of the best”.
I will take the advantage of this occasion to transmit the advice of the forty scientists and their compatriots to the new Iraqi generations. I appreciate the advice more or less egoistic of Mia Aref Kaftane who celebrated last year her 80st anniversary and said substantially :” the best reward of research is the personal source of joy and the satisfaction of works well accomplished” and setting against it the words tinted with patriotism of Samir Kasir: “ be loyal to yourself and to Iraq and work hard for your country and only for it. Come back to it in peace with your dreams”. Kasir, the agronomist, specialist of cattle breeding is 84 years old. He was one of the founders of the faculty of veterinary science in Baghdad.

Many of the honored scientists of this ceremony spent most of their lives in charge of their country before the occupation forced them to immigrate. Among them, we mention Hichem Mounir, one of the greatest Iraqi architects who founded the architecture department at the University of Baghdad and has built numerous important buildings like the university of Baghdad in Jadria and the Medical Town. His advice is a true professional and ethical road map for young architects and urbanologists of the country:
“be proud of the rich patrimony of your country . Your duty is its conservation and safeguarding intended for the gush of inspiration, innovation and continuity.”
“To be honored is like a perfume which should be inhaled and not absorbed”, an American saying! For Salah Al Wakil, the Iraqi scholar, the most expected laureate for the Nobel Prize: “there is no perfume which is as fine as the perfume of the town of Hilla”, his town. In the reception speech for his nomination to the national American academy of science, his findings in the field of enzymatic reactions, to enable the durability of life, has been mentioned and has provoked a real medical revolution.

I have been deeply impressed by the huge sympathy for Iraq, expressed by many great scientists. This passion nearly mystical I felt during an Arabic scientific conference in Abu Dhabi. In the car, back to the hotel, in compagny of Salah Al Wakil and Fawzia Al Bahrani, his wife, who suddenly started singing an old song of the Iraqi country: “where are you going then, where? And what about your commitment? My eyes are weeping bitter tears”! The song immediately was repeated by her husband.

This woman, living since half a century in the American high society of medical scientists, was singing with the voice of a young Iraqi girl. I did not look back in order not to bother Al Wakil whose passion illuminated the darkness in the car: “where are you going , then, where? What about your commitment?

Mohamed Aref

traduction de l'arabe par Ahmed Manaï
traduction du français par Frigga Karl

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